Thursday, December 1, 2022 @

Chapter 23, Part 2

 Fuso is the center, the capital... with a population in the hundreds of thousands. This large, world-class city is a much more comfortable place to live than any other city in the country. The city streets, which are paved with stones and bricks even to the side streets, are maintained with water and sewage systems, though primitive, and are constantly traversed by horse-drawn carts and ox carts, not to mention people on foot. The markets located in the east, west, south, and north were filled with not only domestic goods but also imported goods ranging from daily necessities to consumable goods and luxury items, not to mention food. The security is good, and the standard of living is considerably richer than that of the local cities, not to mention the outer city.
 In one corner of the city, facing Suzaku Street, one of the main streets crisscrossing the city, is the main office of Tachibana Trading Company, and the residence of the Tachibana family.
 "Well, well, Uemon-dono, thank you very much for coming. Please allow me to welcome you."
 Tachibana Hibiki, the head of the trading company, greets Kizuki Uemon as he gets off the ox cart, and then he bows his head to the gorilla-sama and thanks them.
 "You are as beautiful as ever, Your Highness," he said.
 "Oh, really? Thank you."
 The gorilla replies in a manner that is not particularly interesting but at least respectful. Then the gorilla with her arrogant attitude heads inside the house... just before she turns around and says a few words as if she were trying to nail him.
 "Tomobe, you wait there. Do you understand?"
 "Yes, Princess."
 I respectfully agree with the gorilla's caution.
 "Now, we're ready to welcome you. Please be quick."
 Tachibana Hibiki does not glance at me, nor does he call out to me, but he calls out to the gorilla-sama in a natural way. Gorilla-sama glanced at the leader of the trading company with a sideways glance and accepted his suggestion without saying a word. After gorilla-sama went to the residence, he finally looked at me for a moment, but without saying anything in particular, he immediately lost interest in me and walked away. It was a very natural attitude.
 Or rather, it was a natural thing that he did not need to say. How could a mere servant enter the house?
 Although Tachibana Hibiki, the head of the trading company, has had a relationship with the Kizuki family since the last attack on the trading company and the rescue of the Kizuki family, he is only indebted to Gorilla-sama and Fat-mon, and he has no interest in me at all. It was not arrogance, but a natural act under common sense.
 From the point of view of Tachibana Hibiki, it was the Kizuki family that saved him and his family, gorilla-sama in every sense of the word. At best, it would be a miracle if I am recognized as an accessory, or rather, as a sidekick. In this country with its strict class system, a servant may be better than a discriminated people or a slave, but ultimately he or she is still a person of low status, and his or her actions are only subordinate to the will of the Kizuki family. Therefore, my actions at the time of the attack were the achievement of the Kizuki family, and it was impossible for me to be given any kind of acknowledgment by them.
 (Well, it's a little too late for that...)
 I would be lying if I said I had no complaints, but I am 'used' to this kind of treatment. Besides, I know that I will not get into trouble in this world if I do not make myself conspicuous. In this world where the status system is strict and natural discrimination is rampant, there is not much good that can come from the bottom class being favored, but only a lot of hardship.
 Therefore, I was able to stand silently and unobtrusively by the ox cart with a long spear (the fourth version) for the leader of the servant group in my hand. By the way, I also used this period as a time for meditation. Meditation was an effective method of training, especially in the study of hidden techniques. This act of forcibly maintaining a normal mind, clearing one's thoughts, objectifying things, and minimizing one's presence was an effective practice in such a waiting time.
 However... it seemed that this training was going to be terminated in the middle of the training again.
 "...Miss, may I ask what you're doing here?"
 "Yes. I was waiting for Tomobe's reaction!!"
 I was standing by the oxcart when I finally reacted and called out to her. She smiled at me like a flower blooming, literally right in front of me.
 She was dressed in a hakama that reminded me of the Taisho era, and her face was strikingly shaped, probably due to the influence of Nanban (southern barbarian/Europe) blood. She was a beautiful young girl with blond hair and blue eyes, reminding me of the sun and the sunflower. Her carefree smile is poison to a servant's hard heart. So, please go somewhere else and give everyone that charming, cheerful smile of yours. Or rather, go.
 "Well, you're no stranger. So, please don't say that. I'm so sad I'm going to cry!"
 "Miss is as strong as a sunflower. I'm sure you won't cry at the words of someone like me."
 When I responded casually, the girl's mouth turned into a pout like a child, her cheeks puffed up and she sulked as if she was offended. Still, isn't she so determined that she would actually use her body to get back the business that was taken over?
 "Oh, is there something wrong with you, staring at me like that?"
 Whether or not she noticed my staring or not, Kayo, the only daughter of Tachibana Hibiki, the head of the Tachibana Trading Company... was still looking up at me with a smile on her face that I don't know what she was enjoying...
 "...I can't play with you because I have work to do, okay?"
 "Don't mind me. I'll try not to bother you."
 "Please understand that your mere presence here is a burden to everyone, including me."
 The guard on the side of the trading company looks puzzled, and a staff member of the trading company passes by with a dubious look on their face. That's understandable. Because, why is the only daughter of the head of the trading company crouched down in the ox cart yard?
 "Is it a nuisance to you, Tomobe-san?"
 "It will interfere with my work."
 "Is it your job to sit here and wait?"
 "It's an important job to protect and serve the ox cart, which is the property and foot of the family."
 I know it's a sh**tty job, but I don't talk about it. It is said that a wall has ears and a door has eyes. I never know where people will hear it. ...No, it's quite unusual that I'm talking so much...
 In the first place, why am I having such a conversation with the daughter of a trading company, who is also a daughter of a noble family, whom normally I am not allowed to see face to face?
 The story began when Gorilla-sama rescued Tachibana Trading Company before I almost died in a battle with a monster fox at the orphanage. A few days after that, the Tachibana Trading Company expressed their gratitude to the Kizuki family and to Gorilla-sama, and invited them to their house once.
 At the time, I was busy monitoring the orphanage, making contact with the old man, and preparing various measures against the foxes, but I was in no position to refuse to accompany them if ordered to do so. So, I reluctantly accompanied the invitation with my tired body, and while the gorilla-sama was being entertained as in this case, I was waiting by the ox cart... and I met this young lady again.
 After staring at me as if to examine me, she rushed up to me and greeted me. It is not often that a person of her position greets a servant, so I was a bit surprised, but since she greeted me, I had to greet her. So, I bent my knees and bowed reverently to the younger girl and said...
 "I don't think that mask is very cute. Why don't you take it off?"
 The young lady of the trading company tilts her head with a smirk and makes a suggestion. By the way, I almost lost the mask before! I was also lost my face. Of course, I have not crossed the line of death yet. Anyway, I stopped her by avoiding her hand.
 "This mask is the official equipment of a servant. It is not a mere decoration for personal adornment."
 It is undeniable that the masks worn by the servants have a simple resistance to illusions, and that they serve to protect their faces. Of course, the main reason for this is to make them hide their faces to make them look eerie and to prevent people from getting attached to them... but I'm not sure if this young lady would be convinced by that.
 "Hmm, Tomobe-san, you are so mean. You don't listen to a single one of my requests. If it was our servant, they will do whatever I want!"
 The girl's face, which is young enough for her age, frowns sullenly. She looks so cute that I almost want to relax my expression, but I can't.
 "Please don't ask too much of me. I am a lowly servant, but I am not your servant. I serve Kizuki's household, Princess Aoi, to whom I am directly subordinate. I am very sorry, but please understand that I cannot follow your orders."
 Yes, after all, a servant is not obliged to obey anyone's order. Especially when they are under the orders of their masters. And it is the Kizuki family that I am obeying, not the Tachibana family, so it is obvious which family's orders take precedence over which.
 "Muuuu... uuuu..."
 Kayo Tachibana growls in frustration at my words. In the original game, she is not a captured character and does not have a yandere, so she is relatively easy to talk to... but I may have been a little too merciless in my words. She was spoiled by her father for some reason, and if she never lost or lost her family, my words might have made her emotionally angry, regardless of logic.
 (I'm getting carried away...)
 As I was regretting my comment after all these years, Tachibana Kayo suddenly muttered to me as if she had come up with something.
 "...So, Tomobe-san, if you were mine, you would do whatever I ask?"
 "...what do you intend to do?"
 I narrowed my eyes at her oblique reply and faced the girl in front of me with some caution.
 "Tomobe-san is a property of Kizuki's family, isn't it? If so, I was wondering how much they are willing to sell you to me."
 The blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl smiles innocently and cutely. Her frank and unassuming manner, as if she thought it was a good idea, gave me a sense of hate and at the same time, a certain satisfaction.
 Human trafficking... a word that would be repulsive to the values of my previous world, but this world is a depressing game, and at the same time, the worldview is based on the medieval and early modern times, and above all, the view of life and death is completely different from the previous world because human life is lighter than in the previous world. So, human trafficking and similar transactions are not completely denied, although they are regulated by law.
 (The situation is similar to the one I'm in now...)
 Because Tachibana Kayo was taken over by Kizuki's family in exchange for money due to the fact that her family was a poor farmer who had only a small piece of land and could not make a living even if she worked hard to cultivate it, doing side jobs or small farm works. It is not reasonable to be offended by her words.
 ...however, I can't help but be instinctively displeased by her words.
 "...Tomobe-san? Is something bothering you?"
 I think it was just a slight, very slight resentment. But is it because she is a child that she is sensitive to this kind of emotion? The daughter of the trading company asks me, looking at my face hidden by my mask, puzzled and anxious. It might have seemed to her that I had suddenly become angry.
 "...No, I'm just a little tired, that's all. Don't worry about it."
 Yes, it is nothing for her to worry about. What she said is common sense in this world, and it is more bizarre for me to be indignant.
 "More importantly, are you assuming that they will sell me to you?"
 "Uh... Oh, yes! Because a servant can be replaced, can't he? It's true that Tomobe-san seems to be more skilled than the others, but it shouldn't be a problem if I offer them double, or even triple, the market price!"
 When I made a deep dive into the matter, she immediately changed her mind and put a price tag on me without hesitation.
 "Tomobe-san, it would be better for you to work for us than for the exorcists, wouldn't it? If I tell my father, you can work as a guard in a secure residence. I'm sure you'll be treated better here. You'll get white rice for all three meals and snacks if you want! ...Oh, right! I wouldn't make a foolhardy request to make you fight with other exorcists, okay? I'll only let you do the work that suits your ability! I think it won't hurt if they sell you to me, right?"
 Tachibana Kayo-chan made the proposal with a sparkle in her eyes. She is like a scout for idols. It is a promise that this kind of sales slogan is different from reality. To be honest, I can't say in front of my eyes that I don't trust her.
 (Still, why did she know about the trouble with Murasaki Ako the other day? Where did she hear it from?)
 No, she may be well informed because she is a member of the trading company... but still, she is very enthusiastic in her recruiting of a mere servant.
 "I'm glad to hear your words and the offer is attractive but the question is whether my lord will agree to it—"
 "—Hmm. I don't have any plans to sell him right now. If you want a toy, get another one."
 My comment is followed by the familiar bell-like voice of a girl. I look at the girl with a bitter expression.
 "Princess, you're back so soon. Is something wrong?"
 "Well, I have a rather interesting offer to make to you. But... it seems you've been having quite a pleasant talk over here?"
 The next moment, I hear gorilla-sama's voice, narrowing her eyes and choking me with a cold smile. I shudder, and my shoulders shake slightly. It was fear, because what I should call my sixth sense was telling me of danger.
 "Princess Aoi, I'm happy you're having a good day!"
 The innocent daughter of the trading company greeted her innocently as if she didn't care about my nervousness.
 "Yes, I'm glad you're having a good day too... but while I like your enthusiasm for business, I don't like your bad habit of doing things improperly, okay? Don't play with other people's toys without permission."
 Gorilla-sama declares gently, but warningly. On the other hand, the merchant's daughter smiles unconcernedly.
 "You don't have to talk to me like that! I'm just asking if Tomobe-san can work for us!"
 Kayo makes a childishly grumpy face. Her rollicking, emotional expression is adorable and appropriate for her age. However, the gorilla did not seem to be pleased with her.
 "That's exactly what you should not say to a servant. It doesn't matter whether he wants to or not if he's bought and sold. It's not something you should be talking about directly. ...Well, anyway, this is not the place to talk about the business."
 With that, the gorilla princess breaks off the conversation with the merchant's daughter and turns her attention to me.
 "A job offer, Princess? What sort of business is this?"
 "It's a small chore, of no importance. It's just... there was a good reason for me to accept it."
 The gorilla smiles at me with an aggravating smile. The way she says it reminds me of what she said the other day when the meeting with Ako Murasaki was canceled. Oh, I'm beginning to get a general idea.
 "I heard it's not good to get hurt in a hand-to-hand fight. So, this time we'll be dealing with the usual... So why don't you go clean the ditch?"
 Her words were exactly what she meant when she declared so calmly. That is, the task of exterminating youkai, the small fry youkai that nest in the sewers beneath the capital, which had been released as an early quest in the original game's capital route. But...
 "...haha, seriously?"
 I muttered in a voice full of despair, my face scrunched up behind my mask. At first glance, it was indeed a quest to hunt small fishes in the underground of the capital. But in fact, I knew that it was a trap quest that set up many players to be killed on the first try...

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